Mock pageant brings Christmas cheer to jail


PRISON PAGEANT Gay inmates get dress up in Mardi Gras parade attire prior to a mock pageant inside Quezon City Jail on December 24.

INMATES dressed as beauty queens pranced on a makeshift stage for a mock beauty pageant on Saturday, bringing Christmas cheer to one of the country’s most overcrowded prisons.

Thousands cheered and whistled as 11 gay and one transgender prisoner danced and sang at the “Miss Universe” pageant at the Quezon City Jail courtyard, wearing wigs, make-up, gowns and elaborate Mardi Gras attire.

The decaying jail, housing about 3,800 inmates, is infamous for congestion. Men take turns sleeping in the cells, an open-air basketball court and even on stairways of the facility, built to hold 800 prisoners.

“It’s lonely in here but I’m happy that I won,” the winner called Gwen, whose real name cannot be used due to prison policy, told AFP.

Gwen, arrested nearly two years ago and on trial for drug dealing, said his victory had brought “acclaim for my brigade,” referring to his gang.

All 12 of the gangs in the prison were allowed to enter one contestant to the gay beauty pageant, organized by a jail contractor.

“This is part of inmate welfare development. Once they join activities like this they get less jail time through the good conduct time allowance law,” said the service provider, Ferdinand Abejon.

The Quezon City Jail holds defendants of criminal cases but who have not yet been convicted. Due to overburdened courts many of the inmates have been locked up there for years.

The Philippine penal system is the third most congested in the world, according to the University of London’s Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

Jails nationwide have nearly five times more inmates than they were built for, government data shows.

The situation is set to get much worse with police having arrested more than 40,000 suspects since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched a war on drugs that has also left more than 5,300 people dead since July.
The real Miss Universe pageant is a popular contest in the Philippines, with Filipina beauty queen Pia Wurtzbach winning the crown last year. Manila is hosting the annual contest next month.


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  1. One big factor for the over congestion is the corruption and incompetence that continues in the NBP in stubborn defiance of Digong. Families of inmates know from experience that when following up a prisoners release status you keep hearing the same code-words if you inquire to prison officials or records staff about an inmates over-delayed parole/release. Here are their frequent replies and their true meanings.

    Walang sasakyan kukuha ng documents niya (pay the driver or messenger)
    Walang gasolina ang sasakyan (pay extra for it)
    Ang taong pipirma ay absent o naka-leave (means he is waiting for you to give him something)
    May sinusunod kaming proseso di lang naman siya ang nagaantay (pay or wait)
    Mag-antay antay nalang kayo (no pay – no move)
    Iriri-view uli ang kaso niya (yes he is qualified and approved for parole but unless you pay his papers will get misplaced)
    Dami kasi nila e (to separate him from the rest you need to pay)
    Kasi gagawa-uli kami ng certification niya (duplicate triplicate certifications for no purpose but to delay release unless you pay)
    Nakapunta ka na ba sa akin (come see me at regalohan mo ako)

    Recently Du30 has relieved or reshuffled rotten apples in the NBP but the systemic culture of corruption stubbornly persists through the chaotic and sluggish red tape in the bureaucracy. More than half the prison population have already exceeded their prison terms, and qualify for release even including the so called good conduct allowance provided under the revised penal code which by the way is not being implemented anyway and so is utterly meaningless.

    You know who the inmates are who paid for their release, they are the ones who are given a VIP personal escort all the way to the port or bus stations to make sure they leave without talking to anyone. Why the close escorts if they are already free? To avoid the risk they could bump into the families visiting fellow inmates and talk right there about how they paid to get released.

    There is also the pay for escape plan, like what happened last week Dec. 20, when a notorious fugitive who after miraculously being granted parole, was apprehended for more crimes but on his way to being escorted back to prison by the guards to the NBP main office that is where of all places he was able to elude his guards and escape. How can that be? When Digong learned about what happened the word is that he went ballistic.

    A lot of reformed prisoners who have already served out their required sentence, including among them many elderly and sickly inmates could have been released as a humanitarian Christmas gift gesture by Digong, but instead it is the hardened criminal who bribes his way to freedom that gets parole, amazing!

    The notoriously corrupt Divina, head of the NBP records section has been relieved awaiting charges, but her replacement OIC Chito Roque is no better.

  2. Whoever is running these jails in the Philippines does not have a clue.

    That is not a program that should take place in a jail.